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Monday, 17 July, 2000, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
How can female infanticide be stopped?
India is failing to prevent large-scale female infanticide and foeticide, according to a UN report. As a result, says the UN's World Population Fund, India has one of the highest imbalances in the world between males and females.
The Fund says that the low status of women in Indian society is mainly to blame, and criticises India for its lack of commitment to tackling gender inequality.
Other Asian countries, particularly China, have similar problems. Poverty, ignorance and culture combine to conspire against girls.
How can this problem be tackled? What should countries like India and China be doing? Can the world do any more than criticise from the sidelines? What is the price of doing nothing?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Why is that the rich and prosperous world sees all evil in countries like India? Why do those nations and their citizens choose to ignore the issues such as racism and the total collapse of social values in their own countries?
Since the people who kill female babies are poor and ignorant and know no life beyond their villages, how does education come into the picture? When you live a dirt-poor existence, the first thing on your mind is survival and boy babies contribute more to the future economic picture. There is no solution except time. Comparing motives in India and China with the West is ludicrous. It's the magnitude of the problem, not the fact that it exists that is the point. That's an entirely different matter.
Firstly, India needs a strictly enforced ban on the Dowry policy which serves no purpose but to feed the greed of parents who see their children in a dollar-green light. Secondly, the countries that have this problem should IMMEDIATELY stop the facility that allows parents to know the gender of babies before they are born. I live in a city with a large Asian population where female babies were routinely aborted. Both local hospitals have since stopped this facility. This has worked wonders.
I disagree that the problem is only
of gender inequality. I think it is more
related with education. The affected
percentage of population need to
be educated about the facts and
consequences in the future, just like
the Americans and British needs
to be 'EDUCATED' regarding the
racial inequality existing in western
The solution - extremely high taxes for families with boys - the more boys, more taxes!
Tax and food subsidies for families with daughters, the more daughters, the more subsidies
It will be nearly impossible to stop infanticide in India because it is such a male-dominated culture and because many families are simply too poor to afford raising five, six, seven or more daughters. The only thing that would really stop infanticide in places like India is a radical overhaul of the culture. The obvious alternative, abortion is simply another form of infanticide.
Arni Narain, UK
The logical consequences of this going unchecked are that there will be two Indias. One, where well to do men can afford wives, will have children and normal lives. The other will exist in the ghettos, where kidnapped Bangladeshi or Nepali girls are sold as sex slaves and pass on AIDS to their customers as it was passed on to them. This exists today and will only get worse. AIDS will hit India and Pakistan like a typhoon.
Economic sanctions would only exacerbate the situation, hitting the poorest communities first and increasing their need for sons to boost their income. With a combination of education and government incentives for girls, the situation could slowly be reversed.
Infanticide is murder and that is wrong. Isn't it interesting that in a world that is supposedly modern, - we have people being executed daily, we perform abortions, we refuse to give adequate treatment to ill people because they are poor or old. The fact is very clear. This is a world that is very unfair, very uncompassionate, and very stupid.
The people who carry out these heinous tasks are mainly from the lower class and cannot afford to buy the next meal. When they hear of a female child they realise the expenses involved, such as a massive dowry in the future. A son will not only bring a dowry but will also be an able hand and earn some money for the next meal. How's that for a thought? Any solutions?
Why focus only on India and China? This problem of infanticide exists in all countries to a greater or lesser extent. This is another case of the rich West harassing the relatively poor East. Many consider aborting a foetus the same as infanticide, yet no one is condemning Europeans to change their behaviour.
Birth control methods, like condoms and "the pill" should be distributed at governmental expense throughout the Far East. This would vastly reduce the number of cases in which the mother is forced to kill her child.
Why not just let the kids live? They are people, and just because they are born female, why kill them? Why not give them an equal status with boys? They claim to cherish freedom, but they do not give it to others. As someone once said "those who deny freedom to others do not deserve it themselves."
Ken Bhandary, USA
This is only one of the problems
India has. We all talk about these
when we read it in the newspaper
or watch it on the evening news.
India needs educated people to run
the country, who will allow others
to be educated.
Only the educated leaders can understand
the importance of education.
In order to fix the problem we must
find the root and the root of India's
problem is their uneducated political
Does the Western world have a voice in this. We promote "freedom of choice" of a woman to decide to discontinue a pregnancy as her right. In that case how can we blame the Indian woman for practising her "freedom of choice" (ie: discontinuing a pregnancy, which is her right)?
The bias against daughters arises largely because of economic reasons.
Sons are viewed as "social security" in areas where resources are scarce,
avenues for savings limited, and public support for the elderly non-existent.
Daughters, on the other hand, require large dowry payments at the time
of marriage. The solution? First, educate the young. Second, provide social
security for the elderly. Young folks with higher self esteem and greater
potential on the job market will not have to resort to paying or receiving dowry.
And old folks will stop viewing sons as old age insurance.
Female infanticide is one of the causes of the deep routed problems in the society. It should be get rid off by the very people of the country. A determined Government and Media will also help in this.
Phil Saum, UK
Yet again, Darwinism raises its head. If only middle class and wealthy families can financially tolerate the birth of a daughter, then only middle class and wealthy families will survive to the next generation. Perhaps this is an Indian solution to mass poverty?
What a ridiculous bit of UN hypocrisy. This is just the UN's much extolled "women's right to choose" in action. Why does the UN seek to limit this "right" in India yet extend it elsewhere? Obviously Indian women are choosing to give their little daughter's to Kali. I am surprised that the UN is not sending them money and equipment to make foeticide/abortion/infanticide more accessible.
Female infanticide is a direct result of the dowry system that is followed in India. Although it has be made unlawful it is practised by a majority of the population which also included the stewards of law. Female infanticide can be tackled only through education of the masses and the strict enforcement of law which is a dream which may never become a reality in India unless everyone concerned with it really want it. The world is helpless and can only criticise and watch and pray that the situation will change.
I'm sorry, I was under the impression that this was about killing female children because of their sex, not a platform for anti-abortionists (all men, as usual).
The issue is that children are dying, some unborn yes, but many are infants. Does Pete in England seriously think this is a great way to reduce the world's population?
This is to Janet from UK.
Slapping sanctions is not the solution
specifically for social problems. Under
a sanctions regime the country will be
isolated and whatever little trickle of
information we have will be lost for ever.
And to top it all barbarians will get to rule the
roost. And as far as sexual bias at the time
of birth is concerned its a world wide phenomenon.
Only in the west reason seems to prevail
more often than none.
Why criticise Mohansingh? Because people are killing their daughters, that's why! Or perhaps you think it's "imperialist" to condemn this "cultural choice"? I bet there are a lot of Indians who don't approve of it though. The answer? That's for India to decide.
This has nothing to do with poverty or culture...just the mindset that matters.
As a Catholic, I believe that all "abortion" is infanticide (albeit under another guise).
In country like India, a boy could help the family to earn extra income through child labour. Female (kids and adults) do not work. Given the poverty, families are desperate to get more income earning capacity, of which a baby boy could provide. A baby girl would however, is a liability under this environment. The scenario makes infanticide a sensible practice - regardless how horrible it may sound in the western world. Imagine yourself to be in that scenario - have a baby girl, need to feed them until adult, low possibility of earning income, providing education would be a waste since there wouldn't be any opportunity in the future.
The bottom-line is culture. This is something that cannot be changed. However, the government can mitigate this mindset by " marketing " the status of women in government and business through film and print media. Over time the people will accept the fact that females are just as competent as males and may well contribute more financially to the family. The government must take the first step.
The people making a big issue out of this are not concerned about the victims of this practice. The main objective of such articles made by the western media is racially aimed at giving the impression than Chinese and Indian culture ill-treats women
The major problem in India is patriarchy. Women themselves prefer to submit themselves to their husbands, whom they consider God. If women pressurise and refuse to give in to their commands, a lot could be solved. Also social workers should help them to make them aware of what's going around the world.
Oh PUH-LEEASE! Why does everyone blame only the Indian and Chinese culture?? What about honour killings which are so widespread in mostly Arab countries? Honour killings in the name of Islam are no better than infanticide in the name of culture. In either case, education seems to be the best option.
The problem in these countries is that illiteracy feeds poverty and in Indian and Chinese cultures, baby girls grow up to be expensive daughters. The practice of dowry in India and the one child policy in China, where boys are favoured perpetuates this practice. The only way this is going to change is by educating the illiterate poor in both countries, enforcing the abolishment of dowry practice in India and a review of the one child policy in China.
How would people respond to this issue if male children were the ones targeted for infanticide? With too many issues involving women and girls, heinous acts are placed under the "cultural differences" umbrella. If these same acts were targeted at men and boys, they would be termed "human rights violations."
Maybe one day the female child will become so rare as to be more precious than the male.
Can anything be done as long as situations like this (or dowry murders, female circumcision, the Taleban's ban on women workers, women's right to vote - or lack of it, etc.) are time and time again excused as being due to "cultural differences"?
What is the point of this discussion? This is a cultural issue for India and China - there is little we can do about it.
When the women of India realise just
how bad their situation is, with respect
to many of the freedoms their western
counterparts enjoy, then they will
push for more power to decide their
own lives. This can only come about
by education and communication and then
letting them decide. Information is the
most potent equaliser.
Foeticide is an option exercised in many countries to prevent the birth of unwanted offspring for reasons varying from teenage pregnancies, extra-marital affairs, genetically weak parents. This foeticide might be sometimes even carried out on behalf of government. This act too is inhuman, arising due to ignorance and weakness of culture. Thus, we the people of the west have no right in pointing out fingers to others when we ourselves are indulging in such activities.
John K, Germany
Without drastically altering the national psyche of the Near- and Far-Eastern nations where this is prevalent there is little hope that there will be a reversal in this trend. As populations increase and the governments enact measures to attempt to control said population; there will always be a higher rate of infanticide in girls where the culture places an over-emphasis on paternal lineage. Perhaps a system of orphanages that will speed international adoptions would be a step in the right direction. If people who don't want female children could give them up for adoption without excessive punitive action, they might be less likely to resort to infanticide.
C Hawkins, England
It seems that no measures can be proposed, because it's very difficult to govern social conscience without changes in objective conditions of life in the country.
But one of possible ways to save the very girl could be adoption of the concrete child by foreign families.
Indian people in India will just have to snap out of it. I don't like the implication that 'the world', which always means the pockets of Europeans and Americans, is obliged to bail out everyone else's problems all the time.
Anyone who goes out at the weekends can see what happens when males outnumber females. They become frustrated and violent. India is storing up a lot of misery and trouble for their young men by undervaluing women, essentially ruining society for everyone. They need to experience what we did after the industrial revolution, increasingly equal opportunities.
The west is practising abortion and it is legalised. Legalised abortion is murder and foeticide. Every year more than 30 million abortions are carried out. Why pick on India only? You should condemn the whole world for this barbarous act.
This is a deep-seated cultural matter with many difficulties. Hopefully the globalisation of communications and education will improve things for future generations. Murder is murder and no one is above the law but how do you find the recourses to police the problem let alone the evidence to mount prosecutions. When it comes to abortion we cannot take the moral high ground because we permit this ourselves. Women's rights are still in their infancy even in the West.
Education, Education, Education...
We are hardly an endangered species, are we? Measures like this that slow down the population increase can hardly be a bad thing.
Or is this a case of sexual equality in the extreme?
I don't think it can be stopped.
In countries with such widespread
poverty and ignorance, much of it in
rural, isolated communities, the
'normal' rules cannot be made to
All you can hope for is that those
countries embark on a programme of
education, education and education.
Many men want sons. One day it will
dawn on such men that they cannot
have sons without women. Perhaps
when they are scarce, the value of
women will rise - as the populations
which practice female infanticide
collapse and wars over cross-border
female abduction raids increase.
Foeticide - is that abortion?
The first thing we could do is help young single parents more in this country, rather than encourage them to 'get rid of' their baby. Then we could perhaps give advice to other countries.
This tragedy is largely the result of poverty and ignorance, wrapped in a dominating paternalistic religious culture. It is evil ... but it is up to the political leaders in the countries involved to make the societal changes necessary. I do not presume to understand all the issues, beyond the light of common decency, but it bothers me that these kind of practices are so widespread in countries with nuclear weapons... it says a lot about their thinking.
Karim Chowdhury, England, UK
It is unfortunate that this is the case of India. It never used to be like this with it's regards to women. Although many people regard Islam as an anti-female religion, which it is certainly not, when India was part of Islam, the status of women in India was raised, and the killing of female babies was prohibited. Women are an integral part of our society and without women men would not exist. There should be a re-education of the honour and respect that women should have within Indian culture.
Female infanticide is the result of a barbaric patriarchal society where females are seen as having little or no importance.
Until biting, international sanctions are bought against nations who allow this type of ideology to flourish, very little will change.
11 Jul 00 | South Asia
India rapped over birth bias
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